- ISIS ‘Jamaican cleric’ Shaikh Abdullah Faisal is on trial for terrorism in Manhattan state court.
- He is “one of the most influential English-speaking terrorists of our time,” a prosecutor said Monday.
- The defense counters that Faisal’s hate speech and matchmaking for ISIS brides are not terror.
Jamaica-born Islamist cleric Shaikh Abdullah Faisal has never blown up a building or plotted. Instead, he delivered impassioned speeches in London and beyond about violent jihad, playing matchmaker for would-be ISIS brides.
Faisal advised women who dreamed of traveling to the Islamic State and marrying a jihadist to buy round-trip tickets and remove their headscarves to escape the attention of “infidels”, authorities say.
Two of those “brides” turned out to be NYPD undercover agents, and Faisal is now on trial for terror charges in Manhattan state court.
Jurors will be asked to decide whether Faisal is indeed “one of the most influential English-speaking terrorists of our time,” as lead prosecutor Gary Galperin said in opening statements Monday.
They will also be asked, as the defense countered in openings, whether recruiting and matchmaking alone reach the level of terror under New York state law.
“Focus on the substance of this case,” not all the “noise” about ISIS and terror, attorney Alex Grosshtern told jurors.
“Focus on what Mr. Faisal actually did and not on what he said,” the lawyer said.
Born to an evangelical Christian family in Jamaica, Faisal converted to Islam in high school and has been inciting violence against “infidels” since the late 1990s — even urging throat slitting and beheadings.
“The defendant was, in fact, ISIS before ISIS,” which only proclaimed a global state or “caliphate” in 2014, Galperin told jurors.
His teachings were disseminated through cassette tapes and later through his website, leading prosecutors and terrorism experts to radicalize countless terrorists.
The police officers who portrayed undercover “brides,” the so-called sisters “Rojin” and “Mavish,” will both testify in court about the conversations they had with Faisal via email, WhatsApp and Skype, the prosecution said.
Faisal is charged with five counts of conspiracy and aiding terrorists.